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Puzzled homeowner encounters unexpected HOA fee after requesting home upgrade: ‘It just feels … shady’

Without certain laws, residents have to work to change the rules of the HOA itself before they’re allowed to make these changes to their own properties.

Without certain laws, residents have to work to change the rules of the HOA itself before they're allowed to make these changes to their own properties.

Photo Credit: iStock

One homeowner encountered an unexpected obstacle when they wanted to add solar panels to their home: an installation fee from their HOA.

The puzzled homeowner turned to Reddit’s r/HOA community for advice. “My husband and I are considering adding solar to our unit. It’s a shared building, four units,” they explained. “We have over 100 units in the complex; multiple ones on our street already have solar, so it isn’t a new thing. I submitted an ARC request to the HOA yesterday night saying that we wanted to install solar … and this is the response I got back this morning.”

The homeowner then quoted a message they claimed was from their HOA, talking about an agreement drafted by an attorney that they would need to sign before being allowed to install solar panels. Before the HOA would even begin the process, it also required the homeowner to send a check payable to the HOA.

The amount? A whopping $700.

“Is this normal?” asked the homeowner, baffled. “Is this something that that solar company usually does for us on the back end and we just don’t see? It just feels … shady.”

They also mentioned that a neighbor in the same HOA had installed solar panels earlier the same year and was not required to pay $700 upfront. “They did do everything through the solar company, which might be the difference,” the original poster guessed.

It’s not uncommon for HOAs to forbid owners from installing solar panels, costing homeowners huge amounts of money in the long run and making them reliant on an electric grid often powered by polluting fuel sources like coal.

Luckily for the original poster, they live in California, where there are strong legal protections for homeowners who want solar. Without those laws, residents have to work to change the rules of the HOA itself before they’re allowed to make these changes to their own properties.

Still, HOAs can make homeowners jump through hoops even in California. 

“It’s not unusual, but … if they’re asking for $700 per application — that’s where I think it’s steep,” said one user. “Our HOA only paid this fee once: to get the lawyer to draft the first template for our community so we could reuse it for other applications in the future.”

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